It only seems like yesterday people were moaning about the transition from plain text commentary to watching little blobs running around. The complaints were many and varied, and at first there were enough valid reasons for saying the blobs were a little glitchy sometimes, or that some weird things happened.
Then came the full 3D semi-stick figures and a new group of blob activists came to the fore, arguing the exact same things their text brethren had argued years before. And now we’re at the stage where only the stubborn would say the 3D system wasn’t fully established and working pretty well indeed, thanks.
Now there are more solid characters out there, doing things that look more real than before. It still has the odd... moment, but generally, year on year, things get better. And FM 2012 is just more of the same as before, and therefore is the gaming equivalent of when you’re so screwed up on drugs, you lose the middle of your nose. Because once you’re hooked, it’s a while before you notice Steam says you’ve sunk 1,000 hours into the game.
You all know this already, it’s common knowledge, just as it’s a common fallacy to dismiss it as just a spreadsheet with some green graphics every so often. It’s much more than that, and FM 2012 is more than more than that. If you get me. The initial press release from Sports Interactive claimed that there were 800 different additions to the game, which we’ll go through and discuss one by one starting now.
Actually, only kidding, let’s just go over the most important ones. First off, the match engine. It seems more robust this time, a difficult thing to quantify but there are more animations and the ball takes more deflections. Players also move and strike the ball a little bit better too, keepers spill the ball off crosses occasionally, and generally things have improved in a myriad of small ways.
There’s still an issue, in this reviewer’s opinion, of there being too many glorious chances created - mostly one-on-ones - that are then spurned by top quality strikers, and the AI is still suspiciously good at breaking you down and scoring when you attempt to go defensive and close out a match, but these are quibbles that could always be countered with the old “ah, but that’s football, I guess” and, yes, even these things are a bit more explicable this time around.
Most changes occur in the UI this year, though. That’s where it’s most obvious anyway. Lots of things have been jumbled about in an attempt to make things easier, more streamlined, require less clicks, that sort of thing. It’s also easy to get confused and mope because it’s taking you a while to get used to things, but you will and then it’ll be like the old one was a clunky mess. Ish.
Obviously there are far too many tweaks to go into, so here are a few favourites. Match preparation has now been merged into the tactics screen, as have a lot of other things. You can create custom shouts to allow for merged tactical changes to be blurted out in one go, rather than spend ages selecting them all and then realise you’ve conceded, requiring getting rid of them all again and starting from scratch.
Another good addition is the little info rollover next to each player, which when touched brings up his attributes in a handy mini-window. Saves having to go to their profiles to check them out - very useful in multiplayer games. There’s also the youth intake selection, which allows managers planning longer career games to hand pick the players brought into their youth setup, and it also seems there’s much more chance of a good academy producing real quality. In a Liverpool game, the first season threw up five instant England u19 internationals and even, astonishingly, a Welsh one.
Team reports are more substantial and customisable, plus your scouts can produce the same sort of information for a whole club, instead of having to scout each player individually. There are also more effective tactical reports, showing your success rate with various employed formations and also an analysis of all the goals you’ve scored or conceded, where they were scored from and so on.
Perhaps the most interesting of additions is the new ability to add leagues that are not initially selected into a game, making it infinitely easier to carry on a long career game without the need to put in loads of leagues and slow the whole thing down. Now, just pick a new league and it'll be put in at the end of the season (or whenever the next best time is).
It'll take a while to really analyse this sort of feature to see whether it's been implemented realistically, but early indications are good, although - for example - new leagues seem to have teams with absolutely vast squads and no youth systems. Whether that's meant to be happen is debatable and maybe it'll get fixed in a later patch, but it's still nice to have the option.
So, in short, loads o’ stuff. Yes, it’s essentially the same and there’ll no doubt be “why didn’t you mention X or Y?” in the comments. Forget about that, just know that if you do purchase this, you’re getting your money’s worth. Thousands of hours can be sunk into this and you’ll still be discovering new stuff a year from now.
Sports Interactive always promise overhauls and lots of new features, and they often deliver. But this time they’ve gone beyond the norm and really, genuinely shoved a shit-tonne of new stuff in here. Basically, play it and love it for yet another year.
- New features? Blinkin’ loads of ‘em.
- More stuff crammed into a tighter UI
- The engine feels stabler, more robust than before
- Still too many one-on-ones missed
- New UI takes a bit of getting used to for new and old alike, even with the better tutorials
- Er... those who didn’t like the others won’t like this? Will that do?
Short Version: It’s FM again and you should know by now that this usually means another crack-like addiction that’ll never be satiated. Bigger, better, more life-sapping than last year.